Federal appeals court affirms halt on vaccination mandate for businesses

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5fth Circuit has kept its block on a federal COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandate for private employers with more than 100 employees, The New York Times reported Nov. 12.

In a 22-page ruling cited by the newspaper, a three-judge panel in New Orleans contended that challengers are likely to succeed in their efforts to strike down the mandate on grounds that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's emergency temporary standard exceeds its statutory authority.

"On the dubious assumption that the mandate does pass constitutional muster — which we need not decide today — it is nonetheless fatally flawed on its own terms," the judges wrote Nov. 12.

They added that the rule "grossly exceeds OSHA's statutory authority."

The three-judge panel is continuing the court's block of the mandate.

"A stay is firmly in the public interest. From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months," Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt wrote. "Of course, the principles at stake when it comes to the mandate are not reducible to dollars and cents. The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions — even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials."

The decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed Nov. 5 by Brandon Trosclair — a Louisiana business owner who employs nearly 500 people across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi — and a group of remote workers from Texas, who work for Raleigh, N.C.-based CaptiveAire Systems. 

States including Louisiana, Utah, Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi are also suing over the rule, and on Nov. 6, the 5th Circuit suspended the vaccination requirement.

Although the 5th Circuit is keeping the block in place, some challenges to the mandate are in other circuit courts, according to the Times. The newspaper reported that cases will be consolidated, and the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to eventually make the final call.

President Joe Biden's administration said it would defend the mandate in court.

This "is just the beginning of the process for review of this important OSHA standard," Dena Iverson, a Justice Department spokesperson, said in a statement shared with the Times. "The department will continue to vigorously defend the standard and looks forward to obtaining a definitive resolution following consolidation of all of the pending cases for further review."

OSHA 's emergency temporary standard affects 84 million private-sector workers. 

The agency wrote on its website, "The court ordered that OSHA 'take no steps to implement or enforce' the ETS 'until further court order.' While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation."

Read the full Times report here

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